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I like my law real, not televised

In what appears to be becoming an annual pop culture tradition, the cover story of the new ABA Journal is The 25 Greatest Legal TV Shows. In August 2008, the magazine’s cover story was the 25 greatest legal movies.

Perhaps showing my preference for movies over television, I’d seen more of the top 25 movies than I have the TV shows. But given the accuracy of most TV shows, that’s probably a good thing. As it perhaps fitting, the list was picked by a 12-person jury. Here it is, with comments:

1. LA Law — Enjoyed it to begin with but gave up watching a couple years in when the stuff that was done in the courtroom grew increasingly ludicrous and the soap opera plot lines increased.

2. Perry Mason — Perhaps showing my age, it is a crime — a felony, in fact — for this show not to be number one on the list. Most of the shows I saw were probably in syndication.

3. The Defenders — Although from the Perry Mason era, I don’t think it was as widely syndicated so I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an episode. Besides, this may have been back in the day when you were lucky if you got two channels on your rabbit ears or other television antenna in northeastern South Dakota.

4. Law & Order — Can’t say that I’ve ever sat and watched an episode, in large part because I’m not a fan of detective/cop shows. (This applies to the entire Law & Order franchise.)

5. The Practice — Never watched.

6. Ally McBeal — Doubt if I ever watched a complete episode due to nausea.

7. Rumpole of the Bailey — May have seen one or two episodes but I’m not a fan of British dramas.

8. Boston Legal — Have seen bits and pieces which, for the most part, I found enjoyable but for whatever reason have never seen a complete episode, despite the fact my wife loved the show. Reflective, I guess, of my issues with television commitment.

9. Damages — Watched the first and second season (on DVR) because of Glenn Close being in it. The first season I enjoyed. I came very close to giving up the second and fear it has gone off the track.

10. Night Court — Watched fairly regularly but it wore a bit with age.

11. Judging Amy — Never saw an episode.

12. Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law — May have seen an episode or two but, if I did, it didn’t leave an impression.

13. JAG — Never saw an episode.

14. Shark — Saw an episode or two but quickly discarded.

15. Civil Wars — Watched several episodes but never grabbed me.

16. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law — I don’t know if I even knew this show existed.

17. Law & Order: Criminal Intent — See Law and Order above.

18. Murder One — Can’t say I ever saw an episode.

19. Matlock — Unfortunately, I have seen an episode or two.

20. Reasonable Doubts — If I saw an episode, it evidently was far from memorable.

21. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit — See Law and Order above.

22. Judd for the Defense — Sounds familiar but may well be a victim to the television access problems mentioned for number three.

23. Paper Chase — I’ve seen bits and pieces of the series and enjoyed it enough that this reminder may cause me to go look for it to rent on DVD.

24. Petrocelli — Doesn’t even ring a bell.

25. Eli Stone — Don’t know that I’ve heard of it.

So there it is, at best I’ve seen episodes in maybe half of these. Further indicating that my disdain for television may be heightened by series that deal with subject matters I know, I don’t believe I ever saw any of the dozen shows that made the honorable mention list.


Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new type program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was.

Art Buchwald, Have I Ever Lied to You?

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